Jun 04

Dodgers draft infielders Seager, Valentin with top picks

As Harvard-Westlake righthanded pitcher Lucas Giolito fell into the teens of the 2012 MLB draft, I began to wonder – and I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me sooner – whether the Dodgers might go after him.

Giolito had been projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick this year before he came up with an elbow injury that hinted at the potential need for Tommy John surgery down the road. That poses a fear factor, but I wasn’t sure it would be enough to dissuade prep pitching fan and occasional daredevil drafter Logan White of the Dodgers.

As it happened, only two slots before the Dodgers’ selection at No. 18, Giolito was plucked by the Washington Nationals, who will potentially line him up with post-TJ ace Stephen Strasburg. And so came a different sort of twist. For the first time since James Loney in 2002, White began his draft with a position player and the intention of keeping him there: 6-foot-3 Corey Seager of Northwest Cabarrus High in Concord, North Carolina – the younger brother of Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager.

“(Seager) has similar pure hitting ability while projecting to hit for more power and a better frame,” than his brother, writes John Manuel of Baseball America. “Seager has a chance to play shortstop as a pro but likely slides to third base and has the pop to fit the profile. He has a smooth, powerful swing, and the consensus was he’d have to go out in the first round to keep him from attending South Carolina.”

Here’s ESPN.com’s take: “Corey is bigger and more physical than his brother. Corey could be a tough sign here with a strong commitment to South Carolina, but you have to think the Dodgers are confident they can get him signed. Seager is a very projectable athlete that plays shortstop now but projects to move to third base, where his above-average hands, smooth feet and plus arm will make him an above-average defender. He shows an advanced feel for hitting with a sweet swing from the left side and average present raw power that could be plus as he fills out his broad shoulders, giving him All-Star upside if he develops as scouts project.”

Though it will be years before Seager is big-league ready, assuming that day comes, I’m sure many Dodger fans are heartened to finally see the team draft some offensive help. White is typically adamant about taking the best player available, and if he thought an infielder was that guy, well, that gives me some amount of optimism.

With their second pick, coming in the supplemental round before round two, the Dodgers went with another infielder with major-league bloodlines: Jesmuel Valentin of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.  Conor Massey of Baseball America did a story in May about the son of one-time Dodger Jose Valentin.

“Jesmuel has a similar build to his father at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds,” Massey wrote. “He’s primarily a shortstop, but plays a lot of second base in deference to his high school teammate at Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Carlos Correa. He’s a smooth defender with a strong arm and is an average runner with good instincts on the bases. Valentin said he doesn’t particularly care which position he plays—which must run in the family.”

Jun 04

Dodgers reach Herrerified air in Philly, 4-3

What an exciting, rewarding finish to tonight’s Dodger game for fans scarred by their trips to Philadelphia in the past several years.

With the score tied 3-3, oft-maligned shortstop Dee Gordon’s second hit of the game was a triple to lead off the ninth inning. Listening to the play in my car, I had dreams of him rounding the bases for a game-winning inside-the-park home run, but I had barely had time to be disappointed that he only made it to third base, because Elian Herrera hit the very next pitch from Jonathan Papelbon for a single to score Gordon and break the tie.

The bottom of the ninth began with the Dodgers leading by the same score that they marked the start of the final frame of the heartbreaking Game 4 of the 2009 National League Championship series. The echo reverberated in my brain.  Kenley Jansen struck out the first batter, but the second hit a sinking line drive, recalling a similar ninth-inning shot by Gary Carter off Orel Hershiser that turned around Game 1 of the 1988 NLCS.

Herrera, the hero from Nowhereville finding himself in center field tonight only because Tony Gwynn Jr. was a mid-day scratch, came charging in and glided into a dive, snaring the ball without a care in the world. Two out.

Jansen then went 3-1 to Hector Luna, moving within one pitch of putting the tying run on base. But Jansen blew Luna away on two cutters, and the Dodgers had a big win in Philadelphia, 4-3.

The reaction to the Dodgers’ recent losing stretch (six of seven, eight of 11) has been predictable and understandable, if unpleasant. Insecurities about the team have come out, and there’s a reason those insecurities are there. The 2012 Dodgers barely looked like a playoff team with Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp at full strength. With Kemp on the disabled list, Kershaw struggling to avoid the meltdown inning and other problems materializing, it’s understandable to wonder how long they can hold things together. Put them in a stadium that’s not far from a chamber of horrors for Los Angeles, and tempers are going to be short and not sweet.

We can all see the weaknesses. And so when they overcome them, it’s just so damn pleasing.

Jun 04

Kershaw’s unsteady first half — in 2011

Last year, on June 4, Clayton Kershaw allowed six runs in 6 2/3 innings in Cincinnati. In his next start, he allowed six runs in six innings at Colorado.

His ERA on June 9 last year stood at 3.44.

Admittedly, his strikeout rate is down in 2012, which is not fun to contemplate, but contrary to popular recollection, Kershaw was hittable in the first half of last season. His Cy Young run began June 14, when he began a streak in which he allowed 24 earned runs in his final 19 starts.

Jun 04

On draft day, Dodgers call up Tolleson

Dodgers at Phillies, 4:05 p.m.
Kershaw CXXVIII: Kershmokey and the Bandit
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Bobby Abreu, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
Clayton Kershaw, P

We expected a busy day because of the MLB Draft, set to begin at 4 p.m. Mark Appel is expected by many to be the third overall No. 1 pick from Stanford this year, following Andrew Luck in the NFL and Nneka Ogwumike in the WNBA.

However, the Dodgers made it even newsier by not only activating Juan Rivera but issuing a promotion — long-awaited by many of us — to strikeout-mad reliever Shawn Tolleson. Javy Guerra has gone on the disabled list with right knee inflammation, Scott Van Slyke has been optioned to Albuquerque and Matt Guerrier has moved to the 60-day disabled list.

Tolleson’s childhood buddy, Clayton Kershaw, is looking to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time in his career against a team he is 0-4 lifetime against with a 5.18 ERA (and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings).

One potential new concern: Tony Gwynn Jr. was in the original Dodger starting lineup against Phillies righty Vance Worley announced today but was later scratched without an immediate explanation.

Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times reports that Gwynn has a tight hamstring. How cliche …

Jun 02

Dream your troubles away

When I looked online for a video for “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” I had no idea this is what I would end up with. This should give you something else to talk about besides the Dodgers in this woeful week.